My nephews, nieces, and my friends’ kids all agree: Minecraft is just the greatest game.
My siblings and friends all agree: Minecraft is just the worst game.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m an adult who loves Minecraft, albeit for different reasons than the kids I know. They play to survive while all I do is build. I understand the appeal of Minecraft as a strategy–or even survival horror–title, but that isn’t the way I want to play the glorified LEGO bucket.
Regardless of whether or not I enjoy Minecraft for the same reasons as the Gen-Z set, I’m still taken aback by my peers’ vitriol. These otherwise reasonable individuals, many of them former–or even current–gamers, hate the game for reasons even they can’t seem to fathom. I’ve asked, only to get a variation on the “It’s pointless” theme.
After turning it over in my mind for the last few years, I think I’ve found a few reasons why adults hate Minecraft.
Minecraft Looks Completely Unfamiliar
Except for the multitude of Minecraft clones, there aren’t really that many games rocking the pixel-block aesthetic. And while the game is easily reskinned with mods available online, Minecraft is–at its core–unconcerned with its appearance. Even other sandbox titles, like Kodu and Spark, are more polished than the Mojang title.
But the parents grumbling about Minecraft today were the kids who thought the NES’s 25-color display was amazing in 1985, so why do adults hate Minecraft for its lo-fi graphics?
It’s important to remember that western culture emphasizes being–and having–the best, where “best” is defined as that which is the newest, shiniest, most expensive, or most desired. Minecraft doesn’t fit within those parameters. It isn’t shiny or polished. It’s a relatively simple, open-ended game, made by an obscure Swedish developer, and sold for $20-30: half the cost of a new release.
Additionally, Minecraft‘s randomly-generated environments make level-memorization not just obsolete, but impossible. Even using the same seed for every new world you create doesn’t guarantee you the same spawn each time. There is no way to become accustomed to Minecraft‘s terrain without investing time playing the game, and just doing that is difficult for adults because…
Minecraft Has No Clear Objectives
I’m a Millennial, but even I can remember when Metal Gear Solid 2‘s manual felt like War and Peace in my hands. It was intimidating to know that the game I’d just purchased was so complex as to warrant over 40 pages of instructional material. Granted, MGS2 was an outlier, even in the days when developers relied on manuals to provide players with information and instruction. The average PlayStation 2 or XBOX game manual is a hulking giant compared to box inserts today, which are often no more than four-page health and warranty disclaimers.
Game manuals may have been supplanted by in-game tooltips in recent years, but Minecraft takes the trend one step further by almost entirely eschewing tutorials. Adults hate Minecraft because the game spawns them in an unfamiliar terrain and gives them no heading. There are no quests to complete, no markers to light the way toward new materials, and few crafting guides.
But should Minecraft‘s lack of in-game directives really intimidate those of us whose gaming careers are older than the Internet? We remember when there were no wikis or walkthroughs to consult, when our sole source of aid was the now-defunct Nintendo Power Line. Back then, it was entirely possible to trek into high-level areas where you had no business being. If you didn’t save before entering a new area…well, too bad, sport. Remember the days of time limits, finite lives, and the possibility of falling out of bounds?
Today, top-tier titles like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed don’t present us with the same challenges we grew up facing. They hold our hands through linear maps and storylines. The loss of hours–or even days–of work is nearly impossible in the age of autosaves. What our elders feared has come true: we’ve become used to having no consequences for our actions, as a result of playing games.
To put it more bluntly, the hard truth is: we’ve gotten soft. We’ve become accustomed to straightforward games that don’t require us to think. Adults hate Minecraft, not only because the game forces them to adapt quickly to an unforgiving and unstable environment, but also because…
Minecraft Requires Imagination to Play
Children have the tenacity and sense of adventure to persevere when faced with Minecraft‘s unconventional challenges. We used to have the creativity to solve new challenges, and studies indicate that playing video games helps build creativity in children. But changes in the makeup of mainstream titles have allowed us to freely discard our creative instincts in favor of rote–some might even say mindless–gameplay: pick up that weapon; shoot that guy; escape through that drainpipe.
Franchises like Portal and LittleBigPlanet stand out from the mainstream action crowd. Sure, they’re more linear than Minecraft, but they offer the same creative problem-solving and world-building exercises as the Mojang title. Similarly, games in the horror and strategy genres require players to think quickly and outside-the-box if they want to survive; there’s something to be said for planning, but still more to be said for perseverance.
Adults hate Minecraft because we’ve lost the ability to lose gracefully. We’d all like to believe that, by the time we reach adulthood, our days of learning and losing are over, because we know what we’re doing. But we can’t know everything, and that’s one fact Minecraft hammers home. Just ask any player who has encountered unexpected lava.
In closing, I’d like to include a caveat. I am not saying, in any way, that you have to love Minecraft as much as your 8-year-old, or that you can’t be a real gamer if you don’t enjoy sandbox games. I simply don’t believe it’s healthy to go around hating something without being conscious of why you hate it. Can adults hate Minecraft legitimately? Sure. But I hope this article provides some insight into why the older set has trouble enjoying that vast and simple title.